Tech News and Commentary
Dave and the team discuss the Disney and HBO merger, Pixel phone fixes, Apple not repairing missing phones, storing energy as a liquid, defects in LG batteries in cars, AI replicating human voices, yellow cabs and Uber, and more.
Rob on Block Island, Rhode Island listens Online and asked: “My computer doesn’t have a disk drive, so I want to buy one that I can plug into the USB port. That’s probably a pretty easy answer for you, and it’s probably pretty inexpensive, but I’d love to hear your recommendation. And question number two is I have a portable audio system with a mini jack for the auxiliary input. I want to use the system to play a long music mix, maybe three or four hours long that I have on a USB drive. Is it possible that you could recommend that outboard disk drive, which itself has a USB input, into which I could plug that music mix USB So that it plays on the audio system or if I’m trying to do too much with too few things. Is there another way to get music from that USB into the mini jack? Is there such a thing as a cord that is a USB female on one end and a mini male on the other? So that my audio system will know just to play the music?”
Rob, external disk drives are standard and compatible across the board, but if youre looking for something that will work as effortlessly as possible then you can get one made by your computers manufacturer.
Every manufacturer from LG, to Lenovo, to Dell, to Apple and everyone in between sell their own external CD/DVD drives. Thats not strictly necessary, they are standard and should be compatible with any device and these drives are a very mature technology (to the point of being largely obsolete) so you cant really go wrong no matter which you choose. Youll see a price range of about $25 to $100, theres no real harm in staying close to the low end unless you plan to use the drive a lot.
In terms of piping audio to a mini audio jack, you can find players on Amazon for as little as $15 that will take a USB input and typically have some awful, tiny built-in speaker and an audio out jack. That may be the way to go. You can ignore the speaker and just use it as an audio passthrough interface.
For example, a Hemobllo Mini Speaker sells for about $17 on Amazon, weve never heard of that brand before and likely never will again, but really its a glorified adapter that lets you press play and decodes the MP3 audio for you before piping it to the speaker.
A compact MP3 player with an FM tuner, literally being sold as Compact MP3 Player With FM Tuner without even a made up brand name goes for about $22 right now.
You can also get a bluetooth to mini audio jack adapter and just stream it from your computer or phone wirelessly. Long term that may be the most versatile and comfortable option and it also wont take up much extra room. For those youre still largely looking at $15 to $20 at any online store.
Madeline in Atlanta, Georgia listens on AM 920 The Answer and asked: “First of all, I just want to say I love your show. You guys make me laugh and I learn things, so I appreciate that. I just had a question about different VPNs. I understand that with every computer, you should have anti-virus software. What is the best on that? That’s one question. And the second question is what’s the best VPN? Right now I have Norton, and sometimes I think it causes me trouble. I’ve heard different people say because it can cause the computer not to work as well as it should and block me from sites where I don’t want it to block me from. But also I was considering Express VPN. What’s the difference between like that and say Norton? Because I think Norton doesn’t block or doesn’t give anti trackers unless I buy that service, although they have a VPN. But express VPN from what I understand, provides the anti tracker included in the VPN. If you could explain the difference to me, I’d appreciate it. Thank you so much.”
Madeline, we have less than great news here. Most consumer VPN companies are fronts for a few underlying corporate giants that bought them all years ago.
For example, if you use IPVanish, StrongVPN, Encrypt.me, SaferVPN, OverPlay VPN, VPNhub, Namecheaps VPN, Tweaknews VPN, Easynews VPN, or Newshostings VPN, youre using the same VPN operated by a company named J2.
Thats the case for the overwhelming majority of providers and there are others that are two person operations running leased servers off of places like Panama to minimize the chance of logging.
The main difference behind something like Nortons VPN and something like ExpressVPN is that Nortons main business its still outside of VPNs and theyre going through the motions of providing a VPN service without really trying too hard.
People who use their service often report issues with streaming services, their speeds are not great, and more worryingly it leaks DNS data and doesnt work properly with IPv6.
Unfortunately, ExpressVPN was bought by Kape Technologies who has a less than stellar track record when it comes to privacy, so avoiding ExpressVPN for now may not be the worst thing in the world.
NordVPN is still independent and reasonably well reviewed and blocks trackers, so that may be an option for you. The same goes for ProtonVPN.
Just remember that all of these companies are constantly bought by corporate entities that want the user counts and do not care about your privacy, so check often and make sure that youre still paying who you think youre paying for the service that you think youre paying for.
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